Braised Lamb Neck with Chickpeas and Harissa
Braised lamb neck is one of my favorite cuts of lamb to serve, but cooking a whole neck can be a little intimidating if you’ve never cooked on before. With that in mind, Shepherd Song Farm has been processing necks in a new way that makes them easy for anyone to cook at home. Instead of only whole lamb necks, you can now order them sliced into individual portions, which makes them cook faster, and means no pulling meat off the bone.
I was excited to share an example of a fun way to cook these, and a simple simmer with tomatoes, chickpeas and spicy harissa paste inspired by Moroccan flavors is really nice. Homemade harissa (recipe below) is very good, and lets you control the heat level a bit more than store-bought versions, that can be very spicy.
If you don’t feel like making your own harissa, that’s fine, but do be careful adding store-bought versions since most are spicier than the recipe I share below.
The necks cook up so tender you can cut them with a spoon, and the cooking liquid soaks into the tomatoes and chickpeas making for a delicious, simple meal. Serve it with some wilted greens or rice on the side. And don’t forget the yogurt!
This recipe is by James Beard-Award-winning Chef and author Alan Bergo, the Forager Chef. Alan is chef from Minnesota, and former executive chef of acclaimed Lucia’s Restaurant, and the Salt Cellar. Author of The Forager Chef’s Book of Flora, he’s one of the most respected voices in the world of foraging and wild food. He’s best known as the founder of Forager Chef, his website focused on wild ingredients that reaches millions of readers each year. Learn more about Chef Alan and his hunt for mushrooms, wild and obscure foods at foragerchef.com.
Looking to buy lamb or goat online? Shepherd Song Farm: Grass to table. We raise lambs & goats traditionally, humanely and sustainably. 100% Grass Fed, Pasture Raised, Never Confined, no Hormones, Grains or Animal Byproducts. Born, raised and processed in the U.S.A. Good for you and good for the environment.
Braised Lamb Neck with Chickpeas and Tomato
- 4 slices lamb neck
- 2 tablespoons rendered lamb fat or cooking oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 medium 8 oz yellow onion
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 2 tablepoons quick harissa paste (see recipe)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 15 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
- 1 cup cooked chickpeas
- 3 cups lamb stock
- 1 tablespoon finely sliced fresh mint optional
- Thick Greek yogurt loosened with a splash of cream or milk, for serving (optional)
- Squeeze the seeds out of the tomatoes, then roughly mince them-a little texture is ok.
Dry brine the lamb
- Season the lamb neck slices on both sides with salt and pepper and allow to rest overnight or for at least a few hours before braising.
Browning the meat
- In a dutch oven or braising pot large enough to accommodate the neck slices, heat the fat on high until lightly smoking, then brown the neck slices well on both sides, working in batches if needed.
- When the neck slices are browned, remove them, add the onion, turn the heat down to medium and cook for 2 minutes, then add the harissa and tomato paste, cook for a minute more, then add the tomatoes and their juice along with the stock and chickpeas.
- Tuck the slices of lamb neck under the liquid, then cook, uncovered in a 275 F oven for 2 hours or until fork tender.
- From here the neck can be cooled to room temperature and refrigerated and will improve in flavor if made the day beforehand, but can be served straight-away if needed.
Chilling and de-fatting
- After chilling, scrape the excess fat from the top of the pot and discard, or save for cooking some leafy greens to accompany the dish. Alternately, tilt the pan to the side as I do in the video and spoon off most of the fat.
- To serve, Reduce the sauce until the consistency is to your liking, adding a little water if it seems dry, or reducing a bit if it seems loose. Adjust the seasoning for salt until it tastes good to you, then, right before serving, stir in the shredded mint if using.
- Put a slice of lamb neck on each of four preheated dinner plates, spoon the pan juices and chickpeas over the top of each, garnish with a dollop of yogurt, and serve.
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 3 large cloves garlic
- ¼ cup rendered lamb fat or substitute flavorless cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 Tablespoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon Smoked paprika
- Roast the bell pepper on a burner until charred all over, then put in a plastic bag, seal and allow to cool, then peel, de-seed, and coarsely chop. Combine the pepper with the garlic, oil, cumin, cayenne and the smoked paprika in a blender or food processor and puree until very smooth.
- Transfer the puree to a small pan and cook on medium heat, stirring constantly for 15 minutes, or until the mixture is deeply caramelized, it’s orange color will change to a deep red. Alternately, the pepper paste can be baked in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes being stirred occasionally, until deeply colored.
- Reserve the harissa, you should have about 3 tablespoons of paste. Meanwhile, put the lamb in the freezer for 15 minutes while you allow the paste to cool. The harissa can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.